OLYMPIA THEATRE, DUBLIN
'Our House', affectionately celebrated by cheeky good boys Madness in their 1982 hit, is being bulldozed. Or, as shady property developer Pressman (Tom Dunne) has it, 'redeveloped'. Our young hero Joe Casey's (Ian Tighe) mum (Jenny McCabe) refuses to leave the premises however, bringing to a head the moral dilemma for the two Joes.
Yes, two, for as another Madness hit opines 'it's black and white there's nowhere to hide' and Tim Firth's musical directed by Karl Harpur employs a 'sliding-doors' narrative -- having a nasty 'Black Joe' and a nice 'White Joe' spawned by an initial encounter with the law.
Joe's alternative histories are cross-stitched at quite a frenetic pace in this very lively TheatreworX production of the Olivier-award winning musical. It may lack a certain slickness, but the high-octane performances, from acting to Claire Tighe's choreography, certainly does the music and lyrics of Suggs and Co justice.
There are some unexpectedly lush routines. When nasty Joe wins Employee of the Month he's surrounded by girls in bright red basques and feather boas. Black Joe then goes on to marry his childhood sweetheart Sarah (Sarah Moloney) in a glitzy ceremony led by an Elvis impersonator. There's less kitsch glamour for the white team, but there are equally memorable routines. Particularly the marching maze of inmates surrounding White Joe when he's serving his custodial sentence.
There's muscular characterisation all round, and the romance between Joe and Sarah is sweet without being sugary. Particularly strong is Reecey (Michael Kiersey), the local hoodlum, who really does look as though he's dying to headbutt someone. The many cameo performances showed a lot of verve too. Not forgetting Tom Dunne making his stage debut. The Newstalk host is smooth and nasty as the oily property tycoon.
The most recognisable Madness hits are all here, but the less familiar songs are outstanding. Sarah Moloney delivers 'NW5 (I Would Give You Everything)' with scorching power, in duet with Joe's dad (John Sweeney) whose ghost acts as a chorus to the action.
'Wings of a Dove' is also surprisingly touching.
The outright silliness of songs like 'Driving in my Car' are fully embraced in a production that dynamically encompasses the range of the Madness oeuvre.